Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The first meeting with a midwife

I think most people have an idea of what a midwife is but how many understand what a midwife actually does?

As I am working so closely with a community midwife at the moment, I thought it would be interesting to give you a glimpse of what they actually do day to day and why. I was going to show you a typical weeks work but felt that certain parts needed more description and therefore understanding, so I am going to start with the booking appointment for now.

Booking Appointments: This is the first time the midwife meets with the pregnant woman, usually when she is 8-10 weeks pregnant although there are still a number of women who book later in their pregnancy. But what exactly does a booking appointment involve? Most women are excited about going to their first midwife appointment but don't really know what it entails. Well essentially it's form eh! There is a lot of information to gather - contact details, next of kin, medical history, family conditions that could be hereditary, details of any previous pregnancies which includes terminations and miscarriages, information about previous labours and births, information about any children they currently have, allergies, any social concerns, any previous serious accidents, any operations, nationality of both the woman and the baby's father, date of their last period, whether they usually have regular periods and how long they normally last, whether they were using any contraception or if it was planned, have they taken any medication, have they taken folic acid, how tall are they, what they currently weigh, what shoe size they are, and what ailments they've suffered in this pregnancy. Some questions give way to other questions whereas some the answer is one word and we can move on. From this long list I am sure you can begin to understand why the booking appointment needs to be a long one - it generally takes 30-45minutes.

But the important question is this - why do we need all this information? Some of it is obvious - we need to identify risk factors that could impact on the pregnancy. For example, if the woman had a serious car accident in the past and had to have surgery on her pelvis, we need to know about it, as it could be a factor in her ability to birth vaginally - of course it may not affect her at all. Or if there is a family history of high blood pressure during pregnancy then it's something we would be watching for as it often does run in the family. Something may not seem very important but it can have a huge impact on the care required. Something that might seem unimportant is asking whether or not they are rubella immune or if they have ever had chicken pox. Chicken pox can be quite dangerous in early pregnancy or in the last weeks of pregnancy but if you have had it as a child then your immunity will protect the baby unless you are one of those rare people who didn't maintain immunity. Rubella or German Measles is also very dangerous in pregnancy and this is why all teenage girls are offered the innoculation in school. It is advised that before anyone starts trying for a baby, they make sure that they are rubella immune.

History about previous pregnancies and labours is very significant. If a woman has come to us on her second pregnancy and had a previous Cesarean section then we need to know why that happened. It is not true that because she has had one c-section that she would automatically need or want another one. However in some circumstances it would be the recommendation as the safest way to have the baby. You can also get some information about pain relief used and what worked for them and from this you might get an idea as to the kind of labour they hope for this time. We also need to know whether they had any problems recovering from the birth - did they have a post-partum haemmorhage? If the answer to that is yes, then it impacts on the type of birth we'd recommend to them; a home birth would not be the safest option.

Just asking who the next of kin is, can open the door to details about the father of the baby and whether or not he is in contact or if they are still together. It also offers the opportunity to ask about racial background and nationality. In some cases this has an impact on risk factors - for example Sickle Cell Disease is generally only found in people of sub-Saharan African descent. It can also raise any social issues - are there any other children? Do they live with them or are they refused access to them? I am sure it is obvious why we need to know these things.

Knowing the date of their last period obviously helps us to work out the estimated due date of the baby but also information about the usual length of cycle can help too. It also is essential for working out what scans are needed and when as for things like the nuchal scan, there is a window of opportunity for the most accurate results.

Probably the thing that is asked that is less clear as to why we ask it is shoe size and height. Why on earth do we need to know them? Well give me your best suggestions and I'll tell you if you are right lol

If I have raised something and not fully answered why we ask it then please do ask and I will do my very best to answer you!


  1. Another really interesting post, discussing my previous labour certainly helped get the midwife on side for a homebirth - she thought it was 'a jolly good idea'!

  2. Tell me about shoe size.... I am a 2 and 4ft 11 :-)

  3. So apparently there is a link between height, shoe size and pelvis size but it also seems there are many opinions on this and it's very debatable. Which raises the question - why is it still asked? And that I can't answer lol.